Steelathlon Takes Off Running for its Second Year

By Dom Fonce

Participants in the Steelathlon, an annual obstacle course race through Youngstown, will run, crawl and climb across Youngstown State University’s campus on Sept. 6.

 Erin Mellinger, owner of Fitness Together in Canfield, is coordinating the event.

 “We have 10 different obstacles including high hurdle climbs, round bales, football drills in the WATTS training center, telephone pole balance beams and fire poles,” Mellinger said.

 The high hurdle climbs are a new addition this year as the organizers make some tweaks to try to improve participant experience.

 “We are selling T-shirts this year,” Mellinger said. “We also have more sponsors involved and more door prizes for the runners.”

 Mellinger said the race creates a unique Youngstown experience because it goes right through Youngstown State University’s campus. A number of last year’s participants have asked for the race to occur biannually, to see the campus during multiple seasons.

 The race had a little over 150 participants in 2014, but currently has over 200 registered runners at this point in the year.

 Ryan McNicholas, coordinator of fitness and wellness programs at the Andrews Student Recreation and Wellness Center and supervisor of Endure for the Cure — another local obstacle course race — said the popularity of these events is growing.

 “A lot of people are getting away from standard methods of working out. These races are fun and help build camaraderie,” McNicholas said.

 To McNicholas, it’s about getting people active. He said that participants should be wary of injuries when participating in races like this. 

 “The Steelathlon is great for Youngstown State students because it runs through downtown and YSU’s campus. Everyone should get involved in races like these,” McNicholas said.

 Mary O’Donnell, YSU student and participant in the 2014 Steelathlon, loved the experience.

 “It was a fun twist to put on a 5k race. I’ll definitely be participating again,” O’Donnell said. “I definitely encourage everyone to participate. The obstacles brought laughs to my friends and I and gave us great memories.”

 O’Donnell said that while the obstacle course was fun, it still provided a challenge.

 “The course itself was difficult because of all the hills through downtown Youngstown. The different obstacles made it even more challenging, from having to climb/jump over things, crawl under them, et cetera,” O’Donnell said.

 Mellinger said the Steelathlon benefits the Rescue Mission of the Mahoning Valley, and they strive to make an impact on the Youngstown community.

 “This is an excellent organization that helps many people in the area. They house, feed, counsel and educate hundreds of people a year to help them get back on their feet,” Mellinger said.

 The entry fee is $60 before Sept. 1 and $70 after. Mellinger also said that if YSU students have no interest in running, the Steelathlon is always looking for volunteers to help. More information can be found at